The Attleboro religious sect that alleged baby killer Jacques Robidoux helped lead is a "destructive cult'' that uses mind control to shape members' opinions and beliefs to the point where they blindly follow, experts said.
"Any group that uses mind control techniques where people can't have access to other points of view or to people outside the group, you have a totalistic cult that's capable of violence,'' said Steven Hassan, a cult deprogrammer and mental health counselor who has worked with ex-members of the Attleboro group. "It's a destructive cult.''
Hassan, director of the cult watchdog group www.freedomofmind.com, compared the tactics used by the Attleboro sect to those used by suicide cults such as Jim Jones' People's Temple in Guyana, the Heaven's Gate group in California and even al-Qaeda. While there has never been any mention by the Attleboro group of a mass suicide, Hassan says the group is dangerous because of its anti-government stance, strict religious dogma and blind allegiance to their leaders, Jacques and Roland Robidoux.
"Just because people claim they're following the will of God doesn't mean you can act reckless toward your children. This is not OK behavior,'' Hassan said.
The Attleboro sect was formed after Roland Robidoux walked away from the Texas-based Worldwide Church of God. Robidoux and fellow member Roger Daneau formed a prayer group, basing their beliefs on the Old Testament and "Home In Zion,'' a controversial book by Carol Balizet denouncing the medical system and advocating home births and herbal healing.
At least one baby, Jeremiah Corneau, died a questionable death during a home birth, while Jacques Robidoux's son, Samuel, was allegedly starved to death. Robidoux is on trial for murder in Taunton.
Cult expert Robert Pardon said the group "deeply believes they have an inside track on the will of God'' and that members are slowly duped into following every order handed down by the elders.
"They abdicate their decision-making power to the leaders,'' Pardon said. "There's no checks and balances.''